Old Traditions, New President: An Interview with Wilson Miller
by Zack Spear
The annual student elections for the Executive Committee (EC) concluded shortly before the end of second semester. We at The Spectator want to congratulate former President Mason Grist, the youngest EC president to date, on a very successful tenure that included helping select the new president of the University. In addition, we want to welcome and congratulate the new President, current junior Wilson Miller. Wilson is a veteran of the Executive committee serving as vice president this past year and formerly serving as freshman representative and secretary. Wilson has been a very successful member of the Executive Committee, highlighted in his leadership of reforming the budgeting process for student affairs. Wilson helped to remove barriers and create a more efficient process for student organizations to receive funding. Wilson graciously took the time to sit down and discuss some issues facing the University and his upcoming tenure as Student Body President.
Wilson began by affirming his commitment to his elected position: “I am proud to represent the W&L community, and seek to uphold its proud traditions.” This is an encouraging response, and hopefully provides confidence for all of us who revere the traditions of W&L.
Wilson then went on to describe how the new Executive Committee is already in action, working hard on a new task force list that includes third-year housing, Greek life, the expansion of the honor system involvement, and student safety. Third-year housing as been a concern for many students who desire to maintain student autonomy, a crucial aspect of the W&L culture, and campus life. Wilson stated how he believes student autonomy is strong and believes third-year housing will be beneficial for students. He explained that the Executive Committee desires to make the third-year housing a place where juniors do feel independence, but also feel like they are living on campus as evident in the statement of his goal, “We really want third year housing to have a strong W&L flavor.” Hopefully, this provides some comfort to those who have concerns regarding the dynamics of third-year housing, although a healthy debate remains on the issue.
Wilson described his enjoyment for W&L Greek life, considering it a positive aspect of University life. However, the Executive Committee, as always, aims to prioritize student safety, particularly regarding the pledgeship phase for freshmen. When speaking about one of W&L’s most revered elements, the Honor System, Wilson stated that the Executive Committee wants to expand grassroots involvement through increased discussion, and applying the Honor System’s important lessons outside the W&L campus.
Wilson’s last object of the task force he shared was the one with which he placed the most emphasis. Wilson stated that student safety is extremely important particularly as it relates to drunk driving. Drunk driving has already tragically affected the W&L community in years past. Wilson stated, “Drunk driving has affected too many, and it does not need to affect us anymore. I hope the EC's commitment to preventing instances of drinking and driving will inspire other students to intervene if a friend is about to drink and drive." Wilson’s strong stance to prevent drunk driving is not one to be taken lightly as we all know how tragic the consequences can be.
Wilson then went on to discuss a rather surprising point of conversation that was presented in the campaigning process of splitting the Executive Committee into two separate governing bodies, one for the honor system and one for student affairs. Steven Yeung, Wilson’s challenger in the election, had raised and advocated this point. Wilson politely yet firmly rejected the idea: “What makes the EC (Executive Committee) effective is that it does both and keeps us in touch with the student body. Also, it raises the standard for the EC, knowing that we are managing the Honor System.” Wilson’s statement effectively points to the evident difficulties embedded within any project for reforming student government, changes that may end in isolating the Student Body further from their elected officials due to long stretches of inactivity. Honor trials are not frequent events, and a government body just for the honor system may go a couple of months or a whole term with out any cases. During all other periods, the current Executive Committee is always busy managing student affairs and talking with different student committees. Wilson believes the current order helps the Executive Committee provide better oversight of the Honor System. While it was an interesting concept brought to the attention of the community, it appears that there will not be any requests to the Board of Trustees to consider splitting the Executive Committee.
Wilson went on to discuss a very important tradition to us at The Spectator, the Speaking Tradition. Many are saddened in the feeling that the Speaking Tradition is on the decline. Wilson describes the Speaking Tradition as “a characterizing feature of W&L.” He further explained that he hopes to practice and promote the tradition as much as possible, and to hopefully encourage others as well. He referenced the recent ‘Say Hey Day Event’ as a step in the right direction, and hopes there will be additional student-inspired movements to help restore the tradition.
Wilson concluded the interview by stating his excitement to work with the new Executive Committee. The committee is filled with new comers, with currently six new members and soon to be eight in the fall when the freshman and first year law student are elected. The most notable newcomer is Vice President Daniel Johnson, who ran as an Executive Committee outsider. Regarding Daniel, Wilson exclaimed, “I am very excited to work with Dan. I think he offers a fresh perspective.” Wilson went further to describe, “It is a good thing that we have a lot of new members because it frequently raises the ‘why’ question about how we operate. This is a good question, and if there is no answer to it then we need to make a change.”
We thank Wilson for his time, and are excited for his tenure as president to begin.